Artist draws on modernism inspiration

‘I have no dog in this fight’ unlike any Quartz installation

Paul Brooks





Every year, Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics presents a new installation by an artist chosen by curator Rick Rudd. This time, the artist is Northlander Maak Bow and the installation is called I have no dog in this fight. The explanation for the title was complicated and involved use of the label “modernist” and how it was defined by Maak and others. “I always thought I was a modernist from an early age: my father was an architect so I knew what ‘modernism’ was. But that led me into a lot of research into modernism and the various art forms at the end of the 19th century into the 20th century. “It came to me that modernism was such a strong thing for so many people, it was like a religion. People would have died for it — it was like a political force as well. “The idea was to tear the world apart with modernisation, and that meant the social structure, everything. So it wasn’t just an art style as I thought it was. “That’s where the title comes from. I don’t really care. I’m not fighting for or against it: I’m just using it as inspiration and sort of discussing it.” He sees it as the life cycle of the idea — “The most ideal idea I can see in art is modernism.” The work in the installation is architecturally inspired with its symmetry and perfection in its form. “I think about things a lot, probably too much. On this side I have three architectural pieces: this is ‘form follows function’. A corbel was something that held up a roof.” Three corbels are arranged in increasingly simple design on the wall. All are ceramic and matte black. “I tried to make the most cliche´d version of each one,” says Maak. The centrepiece in the room stands on a concrete plinth. It is large, rounded, grooved and shaped with perfect symmetry, again, in black. It stands reminiscent of a giant chess piece, or the Sky Tower, or whatever the viewer perceives. Behind it, within a striking ceramic frame in shiny gold is a representative image of the 3D form, in gloss black tiles. “Is this a cubist style imitation of [the sculpture], or is this a sculpture of my art?” The viewer is left to ponder. On the right wall are further matte black ceramic sculptures reminiscent of towers . . . or telephoto lenses . . . or . . . pepper grinders? Maak suggests they’re “monuments to some kind of forgotten idea”. If they have a name, it could be “souvenirs”, he says. Everything in the room is ceramic. “I hope the pieces speak for themselves,” says Maak. “They are in an aggressive form . . . but I hope you can enjoy them as themselves.” He wants the viewer to interpret them as they will, from their own perspective. I have no dog in this fight is quite unlike any previous Quartz installation, but that is what Rick Rudd aims for: constant variety and viewer challenge. “Maak has been a finalist in four Portage Awards exhibitions in the past and he’s been in the Auckland Studio Potters’ exhibitions for years so I’ve been aware of his work,” says Rick. Maak was also in the first Emerging Practitioner in Clay Award. Now he has a year-long exhibition of his installation at Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics.